Saturday, 5 January 2013

Thunder by the Bay

"Thunder by the Bay" is an annual event in SRQ when 300-400 bikers have a rally on our bay side and on our Main Street.  See

It's not my kind of thing,

Indeed the event made me a wee bit angry when, in 2012,  I drove up after Church  to a neat bay-side restaurant (Marina Jack's),  there to have lunch with my pals Ben and Bob before we went on to Sarasota's  Van Wezel Performance Center for an afternoon Concert.

Neither Ben, Bob nor I had remembered about "Thunder by the Bay":  and that (1) parking would be at a premium, and (2) The 3/4 mile journey from Marina Jack's to the Van Wezel would take about half an hour.

 We "made it" just in time, and the concert  was great.

I avoided downtown SRQ today in order to ignore the "Thunder by the Bay" mayhem.

But my "occasional pal"  Tony D'Amato  was there this year. He is wise enough to own a Triumph rather than a Harley.

Here are some of Tony's photo's

Tony on his Triumph

Main St SRQ (1)

Big Bike

Modern Bike

"Hot Dogs"

Main Street (2)

Main Street (3)

Friday, 4 January 2013

Today - good stuff!

1. When I was walking with Penne early this morning ( Jan 4th 2013) she became very agitated, and was straining at her leash.  Then she frenetically followed a “smell trail” from which I had to drag her.

Within a few moments the reason for her behaviour became clear when a gorgeous red fox went trotting by.

2. On that walk a gentle wind was blowing through some leafy trees.  That created a beautiful rustling sound which I was glad to enjoy. Music in nature!

3. I called my Doctor’s office this afternoon ( Friday 4th Jan) to schedule a simple check up, in preparation for my trip to Vietnam.

I was offered an appointment on Monday 7th Jan at 11:15 a.m. Wonders never cease!

She is a wonderful primary care physician (G.P.) -  She is Dr. Kristen Paulus

Dr. Paulus and her son as pictured in the Sarasota Herald Tribune

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Necessary plans

I have never done this before, and it may seem silly BUT

I have registered with the U.S. State Department’s “Safe Travel” programme for my upcoming trip to Vietnam,    Jan 26th –Feb 10th.

Therefore: In any emergency the State Department will contact my youngest brother Martyn in the U.K. (and I will provide Martyn with a list of my USA contacts).

It seems prudent to do this.

For when I travelled to Ecuador I was linked with my friends Chris and Trish Morck who (then) lived in Quito.

And when I visited Australia I had contact with my former Cambridge colleague Dr. Andrew McGowan who lives and works in Melbourne.

But I do not know a soul in Vietnam.

So: if I break a limb, or get sick, or shuck off this mortal coil when I am in Vietnam   - there will be a way to notify Martyn – and a way for him to contact my American friends.

Thank goodness for the U.S. State Dept, (and get well soon Secretary of State Hillary Clinton).

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A younger, redder,thinner jmp - vintage 1982.

My sister Maureen, my niece Anne, jmp, our Mum 

My nephew Nick posted this photo' on Facebook.  It was taken at a Restaurant on Fishponds Road, Bristol. -  Nick  remembers that it was called "The Soup Tureen".

Here's the background.

 I flew home on Christmas Day 1981, arriving at London Heathrow on Boxing Day.  I drove down to Bristol and to Maureen's home.  I needed a nap, but my sleep was disturbed when my two of my nephews (David and Robert?) came bounding up the stairs to greet their Uncle John.

We had  an early afternoon family meal at Maureen's home on December 26th 1981.

When I returned to the USA and had my films developed (remember that?), there was a snap of me -  sound asleep at the dinner table. I had no idea that it had been taken.


The photo' above  was taken at a family gathering at the Soup Tureen the evening before I was due to return  to Boston.

Believe it or not I have kept all my old calendars/ diaries. So I know that it was January 7th 1982 when we we  gathered for that meal.

 At some time during the dinner my brother Stephen announced that it was snowing. We thought that he was joking.

But boy was it snowing!  

My plan had been to have a leisurely breakfast with Mum the next morning before driving back to Heathrow.

But by 4:00 a.m. the snow had intensified, so after a bit of toast and a cup of tea with Mum, I set out very early.

Whilst on the M 4 motorway (near one of the Swindon exits) I did a 360 and ended up with the rear end of the car in a snow bank.  I was uninjured, but my heart began to beat fast and I started to sweat, convinced that I was stuck and would miss my plane.  But I managed to rock the car out of the snow bank, and continued in a slow and cautious drive to London.  I think that the journey took me about five hours.

One at the airport and time being short I decided not to drive to the off-airport car rental lot, but to abandon it in one of the multi-story garages.  I had enough time to visit the car rental on airport desk and explain what I had done.- and was told that I had indeed done the right thing.

Wonder of wonders, my flight took off on time -  although shortly thereafter the airport was closed.

Of course I remember nothing about the menu at "The Soup Tureen", but Nick, who was then a teenager remembers his disappointment that it did not include chips (french fries).

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Jack and Donna Chrisman/ Muriel Quinn. Chúc mừng năm mới

Chúc mừng năm mới  (Vietnamese for Happy New Year).

My good friends Jack and Donna Chrisman, together with “the lassie from Lancashire” Muriel Quinn came to my home for lunch today.

Muriel hails from Oldham, Lancs.  Jan 1st is her birthday, so we had a celebration of the New Year, and of a birthday.

We had such a lovely time. We were so relaxed.

 And ‘cos there were but four of us we were able to listen to each other, talk to each other, and listen to each other.

I served “Hoppin’ John”. It’s a dish cooked with crispy bacon and the bacon fat , cooked with black-eyed peas, sauteed yellow onion, green pepper, celery, and seasoned with thyme, garlic, a bay leaf, and some Cajun seasoning.

Hoppin’ John is usually served over long grain rice, with a “side” of collard greens.  That’s what I did today.,

It’s “traditional” in the southern USA States (of the former Confederacy) to eat black-eyed peas with collard, turnip or kale greens on New Year’s Day.

The lore is that the end of the Civil war, when the Union Army razed the Confederacy they burned many crops (a shameful act), but ignored black-eyed peas and various greens, believing them to be no better than fodder for animals.

Thus the southerners had to eke out on a diet of peas and greens. That was their ‘good luck”.

Thus there is a southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas and greens in New Year’s Day for “luck in the new Year”.

Hoppin’ John is but one variant of that “good luck” meal on January 1st.

Jack and Donna are southerners from North Carolina. They pronounced that my Hoppin’ John was very good.

Muriel is a northerner (from the north of England!). She also “loved” Hoppin’ John.

I took their compliments with equanimity. After all I had done no more than to follow a recipe.

Our dessert was Key Lime Pie ice cream, made under the label of “Totally Churned”.   Damn it is good. It is so good that we could indeed enjoy the authentic taste of Key Limes.

What a joy!  - Table fellowship with three good friends, good folks who I had not met until I  moved to SRQ in 2006.

Jack C

Donna C


Monday, 31 December 2012

A dream//2012 -2013/ Hoppin' John

1. I was wakened at about 3:30 a.m. today (Dec 31st 2012) by the sound of a moped just outside my bedroom.  I thought “what the heck”.

As I emerged into consciousness I realised that there was no moped.  What I had heard (and what had awakened me) was the sound of one of my long and drawn out snores. Pity my roommates when I go to Vietnam.

2. The internet is not perfect.  I know this because I’ve had problems when trying to log on to my e-mail account at  My user name and password works well on my desktop, but they are always rejected on my tablet.

This afternoon I trundled off to the local Comcast office to try to resolve the problem.  That office was mobbed. Folks all around me were grumbling on account of the long waits. I decided to be patient on the grounds of “fake it until you make it”.  That “faking it” worked well: so I was in a good frame of mood when my number was called after a one hour wait.

My clerk was Phyllis. She listened to my story, and then told me that the problem could not be resolved at that office, but that I needed to deal with it by ‘phone.

Then Phyllis went beyond the call of duty, and wrote out a note with the ‘phone number I should call, and the options I should choose when I get through to that “press 1/press 2 etc” menu.

“Comcast” is in the communications business, but their own communications are dismal -  unless we encounter an employee such as Phyllis.

I made certain to shake her hand and thank her before I left the office.

3. As I write (Dec 31st at 6:45 p.m.) it is still 2012 in the USA. Places east have already entered 2013.

Even though the passage from one year to another is a bit arbitrary (after all, there are other “New Years” (in Judaism, Islam and other religions and cultures) we in the western/christian world love to mark this passage of time in our end of year celebrations, even as we know that January 1st is nothing more than the day after December 31st,

“Marking the passage of time” is the way in which we all try to come to terms with our mortality - as well we should.

I declined an invitation to a New Years Eve party, mostly because it will start at 9:00 p.m. – at least half an hour after my bedtime!.

4. But I will host a January 1st 2013 lunch for my friends Jack and Donna Chrisman, and our mutual friend Muriel.

I will of course serve “Hoppin John”  - the traditional Jan 1st meal in the USA south.  If you are unfamiliar with “Hoppin John”  a Google search will  set you straight.

5. Feliz año Nuevo.  Feliz Ano Novo. Bonne année. Chúc mừng năm mới. Glückliches neues Jahr. Head uut aastat,  Ευτυχισμένος ο καινούριος χρόνος

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Our big sister - Mum, Maureen, or Auntie Morning.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a big sister.  That’s because she is seven years older than I.  By the time I began to form memories I was 5 years old, and she was 12.

When I was five I started school at Greenbank Infants School in Bristol, U.K.  I cried a lot on that first day.

The family legend is that I cried until the first “playtime” (recess) in the school playground (school yard) that morning.

The legend goes on to say that I re-entered the classroom and announced “I am not going to cry anymore because I saw my sister”.

That sister was my big sister Maureen.  Her “big girls” school started a week later, so she was able to lurk near my school-yard for that first mid-morning “playtime”.

I think that I remember that morning, but it’s more than likely that I remember what was told to me later.

However I recall that story is un-important.

What is important is that I have a fabulous “big sister”.

Her Christian names are Maureen Joy.

It is alleged that she was named Maureen because my dad had a fondness for all things Irish (“Maureen” being an “Irish” name).

What is true is that our next door neighbours Mr and Mrs Charlton said that her middle name should be “Joy”, for they asserted that she would always be a joy to my Mum and Dad.

They were correct

 My big sister Maureen has always been a source of joy. She is a fabulous woman.

She and I became fast friends back in 1966.  I had my very first car and was working at the Westminster Bank on the Wells Road in Knowle, Bristol.  She was working at the M.A.C. (Metal Agencies Company) on Winterstoke Rd in the Ashton district of Bristol.

I would drive her to work, and in those drives we would enjoy long and truthful conversations.

It was at the M.A.C. that she met the love of her life Bernard Theobald.  They married, and Maureen adopted the two children of his first (tragic) marriage, Nick and Louise.

But we could never refer to Nick and Louise as her adopted children. For they adore her, and they know that she is their darling Mum (and they are my nephew and niece without a doubt).

Maureen and Bern were blessed with two more children, my nieces Emma and Anne.

Nick, Louise, Emma and Ann have, with their spouses, birthed six grand-children for Maureen and Bern
(I was privileged to assist at the weddings of my nephew Nick to his beloved Lesley, and of my niece Anne to her darling spouse Stuart).

I had a lovely conversation with my fabulous “big sister” on Christmas Eve 2012.   She was as happy as a clam as she anticipated a Christmas Day with her husband Bern, her four children and their partners, and with her six grand-children.

As our conversation drew to an end Maureen said “I love you very much”.

That brought tears to my eyes.  How wonderful to have a sister who loves me very much.  The feeling is mutual.

Yesterday, Dec 29th 2012 my equally beloved brother Martyn and his wife Wendy hosted a party in Bristol, U.K. for my family members. He wrote this of our sister Maureen and her husband Bern.

” It was truly great to see Maureen & Bern; they were the guests of honour in all our eyes. Maureen has such love to share; there was almost a queue of us waiting to sit a talk with her. I am especially delighted that Sam & Laura (Wendy and Martyn’s children) love her as much as we do.

Some fifteen years ago Maureen and my Mum visited me in Pittsfield, MA together with Martyn, Wendy, Laura, and Sam (then a babe in arms).

Young Laura shared a make-shift bedroom in my den with her Auntie Maureen.

This was a wonderful and joyous adventure for Laura.

She emerged one morning and spoke of “Auntie Morning”.

Laura unwittingly spoke the truth.

Our dear sister Maureen gives us the hope and joy of every morning!

Both Martyn and I get all teared up with deep love as we thank God for our wonderful big sister.